In the latest installment of Arts Valve, I had the great pleasure of profiling local photographer Hal Kahn.
Kahn had gotten in touch with me to list his exhibit, Faces of the Elderly in our calendar. I later asked him for a hi-res shot to consider for publication. That was it.
He opted to hand-deliver an image CD to SFR headquarters, and as soon as I popped that baby into my computer, he started telling intricate and heart-wrenching tales behind his elderly subjects.
The voice recorder went on shortly after. Inadvertently, I'd literally stumbled onto my next subject.
Having experienced rape, domestic abuse and burying their own, the lives of these people were etched in each of the spots and lines on their faces.
One image in particular was haunting. It was a black in white shot of Mike, who after having done the standard photo shoot with Kahn asked to pose nude. The photographer agreed and Mike ran to his car to fetch a prop sword he had brought along for the occasion.
I printed the image out and Kahn posed alongside it.
The article struck a chord with many, and today Mike got in touch with me.
His full email is bellow:
[I am] the Mike mentioned by Hal Kahn. Yes, he of the sword.
Here's how it came about: When I retired from a 30-year career in IT, in 2008, I had a "bucket list", like a lot of other people. On that list was to pose nude for an artist. The first time I tried it, at an open drawing session at Santa Fe Community College in April of 2011, I was amazed by two things: (1) that the artists told me I was a "natural", that I could hold a pose exceedingly well, and (2) that I liked it. In an effort to get work, I advertised myself as a life drawing model on Model Mayhem, which is where Hal saw my picture and got in touch.
What he had in mind was a shirtless shot showing me to be in pretty good shape for my age (I'm not an bodybuilder or an athlete, but a longstanding gym rat), so I figured "in for a penny, in for a pound" and asked Hal to go for the Full Monty, so to speak. The results were spectacular, thanks to Hal's skill.
Since that time I've put in over 100 hours of modeling for various art groups, including:
* New Mexico Art League (Albq)
* The Artist Studio (Albq)
* Southwest University of Art and Design (Albq)
* CNM (Albq)
* Argos Gallery (Santa Fe) - the Eli Levin drawing group
Why do I do it? I enjoy it.
Why do I enjoy it? Two reasons, I think: (1) I get to see artists at work, and watch a piece of art evolving from a few marks on a piece of paper turn into a portrait or a figure and (2) I get a glimpse of how I look to other people. I find artists absolutely fascinating, and "shmoozing" with them while they're actually working beats the heck out of attending a talk or a gallery tour or whatever.
I frequently feel that I'm going to art school by way of modeling. And as for point (2), I find 2 maybe contradictory things: I look better in their artwork than I do to myself in the mirror, and my physical failings are just what I thought they were. The artists don't care, however - they interpret what they see and don't have some ideal of beauty in mind, unlike most photographers (not counting Hal). The most frequent lament I hear from artists about the models (aside from being unreliable or "twitchy") is that they are all of a type - young, fit, attractive. If I've been able to inject a bit of "gray power" into the mix, I'm happy.
As far as being a recovering alcoholic, it's true. That's one of the things I am. Others are: volunteer English as a Second Language tutor, rabidly enthusiastic amateur photographer, happily married man, motorcyclist, slave to cats. Oh yes, and nude model.
I greatly enjoyed the piece and I'm happy to see Hal getting his well-deserved Warholian 15 minutes of fame.
P.S. I'm 66. BTW I'll be posing at the Ryder School in Santa Fe the week of 12/10 - 14, 1:30 to 4:30 Mon - Fri.